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Statistics indicate that around 40% of children in the United States are raised in a single-parent home, or divide their time between two parents, or other family members. This is no small number. Divorce isn’t an easy process for anyone, and often, especially for children. The good news though is that because so many families find themselves in this situation, the law and the options available for creative custody and co-parenting arrangements continue to evolve and grow.

Most parents who consider the issue of child custody want to do so as thoroughly as possible. After all, for most parents, nothing is more important than their children. As a result, it’s important to truly think through potential custody arrangements and outcomes, in order to find custody solutions that truly work best for your family. Let’s take a closer look at custody law in North Carolina together.

A Brief Look At Custody Law In North Carolina

Generally, in North Carolina, there are two types of custody – legal custody, and physical custody. Legal custody refers to which parent will make the major decisions regarding a child’s life. These are typically decisions on matters like education, religion, health care, and various activities that the child participates in. Regardless of whether two parents live close together, or thousands of miles apart, they are often able to share legal custody. Physical custody, on the other hand, is focused on where the child physically resides – that is, which parent’s home they spend their time in.

Ideally, parents would be able to share both physical custody and legal custody – and often, this is possible if the parents live close together, and both parents are loving, involved parents who want to be an active part of their children’s lives. In other cases, however, because of distance or for any number of other reasons, shared custody may not be possible. Ultimately, every family will have its own set of unique circumstances that will factor into which custody arrangement ultimately ends up being best.

In North Carolina, parents have the option to resolve their custody issues outside of court or to have a judge decide the matter for them after the litigation process has been completed. For those parents who can communicate and cooperate openly and effectively with one another, resolving custody matters out of court is often highly preferred.

Out-of-court methods of resolution like mediation or collaborative law give parents the freedom and flexibility to create a custody arrangement that truly works best for their family – and to do so without the stress and expense of litigation. Parents can create an agreement that works best for their family – and after doing so, have it approved by the court.

In other circumstances, however, resolving issues outside of the courtroom simply isn’t an option. There may be any number of reasons for this. Sometimes, the divorce is simply too painful and emotions are still too volatile to allow for effective communication. In other cases, there may be a power dynamic in the relationship that prevents negotiation. In still other cases, one parent may be struggling with an addiction or a mental illness that prevents he or she from being able to be actively involved in working toward resolving the issues.

In cases like these, the best option is ultimately to have a court resolve the issues for the parties. In these circumstances, the parties will present their evidence and arguments to a judge, and the judge will make the final decisions about custody, and all other issues between the parties. In making decisions on custody, a court will ultimately seek to make a decision that is in the “best interest” of the children involved. This will mean looking at all of the important factors relevant to the child’s life, at each parent’s circumstances, and at the home life they will offer the child, and making a decision accordingly. It is important to remember that any decision a court makes will be binding on the parties, until and unless it is later modified.

What Custody Arrangements Are Available?

Many parents who find themselves at the beginning of the divorce process wonder what custody arrangements are ideal, and what other parents often do that works well. The good news is that for parents who choose to create an out-of-court custody agreement, there are truly very few limits on the custody arrangements that can be made. Truly, parents can look at their circumstances, and the needs of their family, and create an arrangement that suits those needs.

With that said, there are a few commonly used custody arrangements that work well for many families. These include:

  • Alternating weeks: In an alternating week schedule, Parent One typically has the child for a week, followed by Parent Two having the child for a week, and so on. Many parents find this schedule ideal because of its consistency. It requires minimal transition during the week and gives each parent weekend and weekday time with the children.
  • 2-2-3: In a 2-2-3 schedule, Parent One will have the children for two weekdays, followed by Parent Two having the children for two weekdays, and parents alternate who will have the children over the weekend. This schedule is often popular with parents who live close to one another and who can make the transitions easily. It also allows children to have bonding time with both parents more often.
  • Extended weekends and holidays: In an extended weekend schedule, Parent One will have the children from Friday afternoon through Monday morning, and Parent Two will have the children from Monday afternoon through Friday morning. This schedule is popular because it allows for extended time with both parents each week. The parent who has less time during the week may see the children more often for holidays, or for a longer time over the summer.


Clearly, there are many options available when it comes to determining a custody arrangement. While these arrangements are frequently used, there are truly endless options available. Some families have the children live with one spouse during the school year, and the other during the summer. Parents share holidays in any number of ways. Truly, you can make decisions that are best for your family, which is wonderful news for parents who find themselves at the beginning of a difficult divorce process.

Regardless of which option you ultimately choose, however, in order to ensure that it is successful for your family, both spouses will need to work continually toward cooperative and effective co-parenting.

A Few Tips For Effective Co-Parenting

Regardless of whether parents share legal custody, joint custody, or both, certain strategies can be implemented to ensure that their custody arrangement works as smoothly and successfully as possible. These include:

  • Open and honest communication: This point may seem obvious, but it’s a point worth making. It also goes without saying that sometimes, a marriage ends for this very reason – that two spouses aren’t great at communicating with each other. For the sake of the children in a shared custody situation, however, it is important to make the effort to overcome these difficulties and communicate openly and freely together. This may mean seeking therapy if needed, and it will require both parties to continually work toward a shared goal – but doing so is well worth it.
  • Creating consistency: Many children crave consistency and reliable routines, whether they realize it or not. For that reason, particularly as children are initially making the transition from one home to two, it can be very helpful for parents to agree on basic rules and routines. This may mean trying, when possible, to enforce the same bedtime, or the same schedule for drop off and pick up from school. It may mean having similar rules concerning chores, technology, and homework. It definitely means both parents seeking the best interest of the child, instead of trying to be the “fun” parent to curry the child’s favor. In the long run, that rarely pays off and often makes matters more difficult for everyone involved.
  • Embrace available technology: In today’s world, there is a tremendous amount of technology at our fingertips. Fortunately, this means that there are a wide variety of apps out there that are intended to make co-parenting easier. Many parents find the use of co-parenting apps to be extremely helpful for sharing schedules, planning extracurricular activities, scheduling doctors’ appointments, and more. Some apps allow parents to track expenses and share a budget. Others allow for communication in a safe, secure way – which parents who have difficulty cooperating and communicating on their own might find helpful. Don’t be afraid to take advantage of this technology – it can be very helpful, and most apps are widely available and very cost-effective.
  • Make your house a home: At its heart, co-parenting is one family in two homes. You may no longer be married, but you will always be parents. If you have decided to transition your family from one home to two, both parents must do all they can to truly help their children feel that both houses are “home”. This means actively taking steps to ensure that the children are comfortable and at ease in both houses. It may mean allowing your children, if they are old enough, to help make decisions about how their bedroom will be decorated, for example. It means carrying over traditions from one home to the other to give a feeling of continuity and consistency. It may be as simple as asking them if they feel comfortable – and if not, what you could do to help make sure that they are.


Call The Law Office Of Dustin McCrary Today

Among the many issues that couples must confront during the divorce process, issues of child custody are among the most important. After all, for most parents, their children are the foremost concern. Most parents want to help their children through the divorce process in a healthy, loving way, and to ease the transition from one home to two as much as possible. At The Law Office of Dustin McCrary, we’re here to help you do exactly that. We understand every aspect of divorce law – in fact, it’s all we do. We’re here to walk with you on this journey and help you move toward a better and brighter chapter ahead. If you’re ready to get started, give us a call today. We look forward to speaking with you soon.

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